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Data centres on wheels?

Driverless vehicles are on the road now. It’s a big news story. Getting the cars to behave with their human-driven peers has taken a tremendous amount of work. Getting them to avoid collisions is still a work in progress.

When you dig into what’s making automobile automation possible, you will find that a lot of computing horsepower is being packed into the design and it’s embedded into the vehicle itself. So why did the designers put the system into the car instead of in the cloud? Latency is critical, so the compute power must be tightly integrated into the control loop for the car. Like its pavement counterpart, you want to avoid a traffic jam on the information highway too. The last thing you’d want is for a round trip time to a cloud data center to prevent your self-driving car from safely delivering you to your destination.  

This design model presents new challenges to us in the industry. There will be no single standard for edge IoT compute form factors. There will be common design points that most industry verticals will care about to some degree. Composing technology in a way that is adaptable to these various requirements will be a challenge that will separate the creative innovators from the fast followers. To help stimulate the innovators out there, let’s pick apart the edge IoT (Internet of Things) data center of the future with three basic design questions:

1. What workloads are we going to be running?
Machine learning and artificial intelligence are all the rage of late. These techniques aren’t new. What’s all the fuss about? In a word, it’s about data. We’re drowning in it. We’d prefer to be swimming. For many applications, we’ll need to have dynamic tuning of our sensor data as conditions change. This will require the embedded artificial intelligence driving the cars to go through training, re-training, and lots of it. This is the obvious answer. Beyond that, we’re going to need the infrastructure applications to connect our systems to users, the cloud, their peers, and potentially, the environment around them.

System designers need to grow in their thinking to incorporate these elements into their foundational designs for edge systems. Finally, they shouldn’t overlook the old-fashioned applications run in other places today. Putting data center-class computing power where it didn’t exist before will create incentive for software developers to build applications for it.

2. What are the primary constraints in the environment?
The answers here will vary, but nothing at the edge will behave like a data center does. Lack of strict environmental control and limited ventilation may be common. How many Gs do you experience when you hit a pothole at 60 kmph? Will we need airbags for our mobile IT? What is your high-availability requirement and model for redundancy? The idea of putting hyperconverged infrastructure into an edge appliance might raise questions, but it does make for a robust platform with a good deal of general compute capability.

3. How will we manage the lifecycle?
Data center IT is built based upon some principal assumptions of the lifetime of a generation of technology. These assumptions are wrong in many IoT environments.

As an example, you bought a Google TV in 2009. It’s a generation behind in display technology (HD instead of 4K), but it adequately delivers what you need for viewing most content nine years into its service. It will probably be in use for several more years. The brand stopped issuing updates for the embedded system years ago. The hardware simply no longer keeps up with new application development. Even if you wanted to, there is no way to upgrade the memory and CPU without replacing the entire television and its very expensive display. That makes it a technical orphan. It’s unfortunate. The idea was great. The execution failed to comprehend the difference in lifespan of the composed technology. We need to figure this out.

Beyond the hardware considerations, we also will need to design in a new model for management, maintenance and refreshing of our distributed data center technologies.

This is a new frontier in technology. The world is transforming because of it. We are setting the table. As we do so, we need to think beyond the technology packaging and delivery we do for traditional and cloud data centers today. Great innovations come from internalising the problems of the customer and applying technology in creative ways to solve them.

Are we thinking far enough from our comfort zone to make the leap to the future? Lenovo is driving edge computing to the center of our thinking about IoT and will be ready to meet you wherever your edge happens to be.

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Veeam passes $1bn, prepares for cloud’s ‘Act II’

Leader in cloud-data management reveals how it will harness the next growth phase of the data revolution, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK

Veeam Software, the quiet leader in backup solutions for cloud data management,has announced that it has passed $1-billion in revenues, and is preparing for the next phase of sustained growth in the sector.

Now, it is unveiling what it calls Act II, following five years of rapid growth through modernisation of the data centre. At the VeeamON 2019conferencein Miami this week, company co-founder Ratmir Timashev declared that the opportunities in this new era, focused on managing data for the hybrid cloud, would drive the next phase of growth.

“Veeam created the VMware backup market and has dominated it as the leader for the last decade,” said Timashev, who is also executive vice president for sales and marketing at the organisation. “This was Veeam’s Act I and I am delighted that we have surpassed the $1 billion mark; in 2013 I predicted we’d achieve this in less than six years. 

“However, the market is now changing. Backup is still critical, but customers are now building hybrid clouds with AWS, Azure, IBM and Google, and they need more than just backup. To succeed in this changing environment, Veeam has had to adapt. Veeam, with its 60,000-plus channel and service provider partners and the broadest ecosystem of technology partners, including Cisco, HPE, NetApp, Nutanix and Pure Storage, is best positioned to dominate the new cloud data management in our Act II.”

In South Africa, Veeam expects similar growth. Speaking at the Cisco Connect conference in Sun City this week, country manager Kate Mollett told Gadget’s BRYAN TURNER that the company was doing exceptionally well in this market.

“In financial year 2018, we saw double-digit growth, which was really very encouraging if you consider the state of the economy, and not so much customer sentiment, but customers have been more cautious with how they spend their money. We’ve seen a fluctuation in the currency, so we see customers pausing with big decisions and hoping for a recovery in the Rand-Dollar. But despite all of the negatives, we have double digit growth which is really good. We continue to grow our team and hire.

“From a Veeam perspective, last year we were responsible for Veeam Africa South, which consisted of South Africa, SADC countries, and the Indian Ocean Islands. We’ve now been given the responsibility for the whole of Africa. This is really fantastic because we are now able to drive a single strategy for Africa from South Africa.”

Veeam has been the leading provider of backup, recovery and replication solutions for more than a decade, and is growing rapidly at a time when other players in the backup market are struggling to innovate on demand.

“Backup is not sexy and they made a pretty successful company out of something that others seem to be screwing up,” said Roy Illsley, Distinguished Analyst at Ovum, speaking in Miami after the VeeamOn conference. “Others have not invested much in new products and they don’t solve key challenges that most organisations want solved. Theyre resting on their laurels and are stuck in the physical world of backup instead of embracing the cloud.”

Illsley readily buys into the Veeam tagline. “It just works”. 

“They are very good at marketing but are also a good engineering comany that does produce the goods. Their big strength, that it just works, is a reliable feature they have built into their product portfolio.”

Veeam said in statement from the event that, while it had initially focused on server virtualisation for VMware environments, in recent years it had expanded this core offering. It was now delivering integration with multiple hypervisors, physical servers and endpoints, along with public and software-as-a-service workloads, while partnering with leading cloud, storage, server, hyperconverged (HCI) and application vendors.

This week, it  announced a new “with Veeam”program, which brings in enterprise storage and hyperconverged (HCI) vendors to provide customers with comprehensive secondary storage solutions that combine Veeam software with industry-leading infrastructure systems. Companies like ExaGrid and Nutanix have already announced partnerships.

Timashev said: “From day one, we have focused on partnerships to deliver customer value. Working with our storage and cloud partners, we are delivering choice, flexibility and value to customers of all sizes.”

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‘Energy scavenging’ funded

As the drive towards a 5G future gathers momentum, the University of Surrey’s research into technology that could power countless internet enabled devices – including those needed for autonomous cars – has won over £1M from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and industry partners.

Surrey’s Advanced Technology Institute (ATI) has been working on triboelectric nanogenerators (TENG), an energy harvesting technology capable of ‘scavenging’ energy from movements such as human motion, machine vibration, wind and vehicle movements to power small electronic components. 

TENG energy harvesting is based on a combination of electrostatic charging and electrostatic induction, providing high output, peak efficiency and low-cost solutions for small scale electronic devices. It’s thought such devices will be vital for the smart sensors needed to enable driverless cars to work safely, wearable electronics, health sensors in ‘smart hospitals’ and robotics in ‘smart factories.’ 

The ATI will be partnered on this development project with the Georgia Institute of Technology, QinetiQ, MAS Holdings, National Physical Laboratory, Soochow University and Jaguar Land Rover. 

Professor Ravi Silva, Director of the ATI and the principal investigator of the TENG project, said: “TENG technology is ideal to power the next generation of electronic devices due to its small footprint and capacity to integrate into systems we use every day. Here at the ATI, we are constantly looking to develop such advanced technologies leading towards our quest to realise worldwide “free energy”.

“TENGs are an ideal candidate to power the autonomous electronic systems for Internet of Things applications and wearable electronic devices. We believe this research grant will allow us to further the design of optimized energy harvesters.”

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